Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan has announced dissolving Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assemblies on December 23. The days before his next move are crucial for the future of national politics.
It is clear that Imran Khan has given more time to the government to sit with him to decide about an early election date. However, if the government acts upon its original plan and manages to change the loyalty of some PTI lawmakers through bribes and threats, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf could lose its government in Punjab. The government has already finalized a plan to topple the PTI government in Punjab. Under the scheme, 10 to 15 PTI members have been targeted. They have been intimidated and bribed to leave the country. Arrangements were made to provide them with enough money so that they can settle permanently in Europe. When they leave the country, Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi will be asked to take a vote of confidence. As he will not have the required majority, he would lose his office. On the other hand, the PTI MPAs, who will be absent during the vote of confidence, would not have to face any action from the party. The plan has been fine-tuned after a recent Supreme Court ruling under which no member of parliament can vote against their party lines. In this way, the PML-N will be able to install its own government in Punjab ahead of the arrival of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who wants his party’s government in its home province at any cost. It appears to be a smart plan but Imran Khan’s popularity may fail it.
However, if the government does not succeed in its plan and Imran Khan dissolves the assemblies, the country will plunge to worst political instability, which would also hurt its already struggling economy. Both sides have many options available to them in the days ahead of the possible dissolution of the assemblies. Imran Khan will move ahead with his plan as he hopes he would sweep polls in the two assemblies. On the other hand, if elections are rigged and he loses Punjab, it will badly hurt his politics and plan to return to power. On the other hand, if he wins in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in by-polls and forms the government in the two provinces, he will be better placed than the government to win the general election as the provincial governments would help his cause immensely. However, the dissolution of the assemblies will be a bold move and it can also go wrong and harm his politics. However, he is known for his ability to take risks and succeed. It is clear that his announcement has made the government nervous. Cracks have already started appearing among the coalition partners and they would widen on the issue of elections.
On the other hand, the government will delay the election as long as possible, because it will lose it. It can also find ways and means to delay them to beyond 2023. It is said the government has already started working on a plan to extend the tenure of the National Assembly to 2024. In the meanwhile, it will try to provide incentives to people and reduce inflation, so that its popularity improves and it wins the next general election. However, the government’s first priority is to foil Imran Khan’s move to dissolve the provincial assemblies and it will use every possible option for it.
The government is still optimistic that either Imran Khan or Punjab Chief Minister Pervaiz Elahi will reverse the decision. “It is yet to be seen who takes a U-turn and who takes a smart turn,” says Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah. He said whether Imran Khan dissolved the assemblies or not, he would be the loser.
The government also has an option of rigging the election, as all state institutions stand behind it. However, Imran Khan will not take it lying down and start a protest movement, which would worsen political and economic instability.
As both government and Imran Khan can lose or win in the situation, it is the Pakistan Muslim League-Q that has a win-win situation ahead of it. It will benefit in either case. After its attempts failed to convince Imran Khan to delay the dissolution of assemblies for two more months, the party seeks an adjustment with the PTI on 25 to 30 seats in the next election. PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry has acknowledged that the PTI’s seat adjustment with the PML-Q is underway but added that the coalition partner would be given a share as per its strength.
It is clear that all parties are trying to make the most of the present situation. The government wants to continue as long as possible, while Imran Khan desires elections at the earliest because he thinks his popularity is at peak and he would return to power. However, the country suffers as both sides continue to lock horns. They should soften their positions and reach a consensus to save the country from more chaos.